Jacksonville Sports Day

CWS: Virginia Edges No. 4 Florida, 5-4, To Advance To Finals

OMAHA, Neb. – A bases-loaded sacrifice fly by senior Kenny Towns snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning and brought home freshman Ernie Clement with what proved to be the winning run as Virginia (42-23) defeated No. 4 Florida (52-18), 5-4, on Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. 

With the victory, the Cavaliers advance to the best-of-three CWS Finals, where they will face defending national champion Vanderbilt in a rematch of last season’s title series.

Junior Josh Sborz (6-2) provided four innings of scoreless relief to collect the win, Towns drove in three runs and sophomore Matt Thaiss was 2-for-3 with two runs and a homer. Leading the Gators offensively, junior Harrison Bader was 4-for-5 with a solo homer and sophomore Peter Alonso cranked a two-run shot in the second inning that was longest in the stadium’s existence.

Thaiss had given the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out homer to right field off of sophomore righty Dane Dunning. It was his 10th round-tripper of the season.

Alonso provided Florida with a 2-1 advantage in the second inning with a monstrous two-run blast to straightaway center field after freshman JJ Schwarz had drawn a leadoff walk from junior left-hander Brandon Waddell. Alonso’s fifth homer of the year was the longest in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha history at 429 feet, surpassing the 421-foot shot that he delivered against Miami on Wednesday.

The Gators put their first two runners aboard in the third but were held at bay. Sophomore Ryan Larson opened the frame with a base-hit into right field and Bader followed by smashing a hard single into left field. Waddell struck out junior Richie Martin and Bader was thrown out trying to swipe second before senior Josh Tobias earned a free pass for runners on the corners. With two down, Waddell had Schwarz fly out to right center field.

Virginia knotted the game at 2-2 in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by junior Joe McCarthy. Freshman Pavin Smith had a one-out triple to center field and junior Robbie Coman drew a walk before McCarthy’s fly ball into center brought home Smith with the tying run.

Bader put the Gators back on top, 3-2, with his 17th homer of the campaign, a one-out dinger to left center in the fifth. It was his second big fly of the CWS and his team-leading fifth jack of the postseason.

In the bottom of the inning, the Cavaliers used a two-out rally and a two-run double down the left-field line by Towns to grab a 4-3 advantage. A single with two down by sophomore Daniel Pinero (2-for-3) brought sophomore southpaw Kirby Snead in for Dunning (4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R). Thaiss roped a single into right center to push Pinero to third base and Towns helped UVa regain the lead with a two-bagger to left field.

Florida answered in the sixth for a 4-4 score on a game-tying RBI single by freshman Mike Rivera (2-for-4). Schwarz started things off with a single into center field, bringing Sborz in from the bullpen for Waddell (5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K). Alonso earned a walk and a grounder by sophomore Buddy Reed gave the Gators a couple of runners in scoring position. After Rivera singled into right center to bring home Schwarz and move Alonso to third base, Sborz struck out freshman Dalton Guthrie and had Larson ground out to keep the contest tied.

After junior Taylor Lewis (6-2) retired the side in order in the sixth, Bader collected his third hit of the night to start the seventh and stole second with two down. However, Sborz struck out Schwarz to complete the frame.

Virginia took a 5-4 advantage in the seventh on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Towns. Clement had led off with a single into left field and Haseley drew a four-pitch walk before Pinero laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance his teammates. Thaiss was walked intentionally to load the bases with one down and Towns’ fly into right field scored Clement with the go-ahead run. It was the first run surrendered by Lewis since April 19 at Mississippi State. Junior Danny Young came in for Lewis (1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R) and had Smith ground out to hold the deficit at a run.

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